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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY I LOVE THIS RECIPE: My Italian Rainbow Cookies recipe yields the most delicious and tender almond-flavored cookie, coated in semisweet chocolate and stuffed with sweet raspberry jam! Rainbow Italian cookies are a welcomed pop of color on every holiday cookie tray.
If you ever visit New York, you’re more than likely going to spot Italian Rainbow Cookies at every Italian-American bakery and Jewish deli you come across! Over the years, these beloved tri-colored cookies, which are more like a layered cake than a cookie, have become a popular treat for both Christmas and Hanukkah. Similar to Panettone (or Italian Christmas Bread), these cookies have become quite the tradition!
Now, with my Italian Rainbow Cookie recipe, you don’t have to make a special trip to NYC to get the authentic taste!
These colorful seven-layer cookies are always a hit when added to a holiday cookie tray. I have my suspicions that the beautiful colors are what naturally draws a person to them, but once they get a taste of that creamy chocolate-topped, almond-flavored spongecake-like cookie with raspberry jam spread between the soft layers, there’s no going back! You’re a Rainbow Cookie fan for life.
Table Of Contents
- What Are Italian Rainbow Cookies? History Of Rainbow Cookies
- Tools You Need To Make Rainbow Cookies
- What Are Italian Rainbow Cookies Made Of? Ingredients You Need
- How To Make Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Can I Make Rainbow Cookies Ahead Of Time?
- How To Store Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- Related Holiday Cookie Recipes
Despite its name, Italian Rainbow Cookies are not Italian — they are Italian American. The cookie (which goes by many names, including Flag Cookie, Rainbow Cake, Neapolitan Cookies, Seven Layer Cookies, Italian Flag Cookies, Tricolor Cookies, Venetian Cookies, etc.) first popped up in Italian-American bakeries around the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Why are Italian Rainbow Cookies colored white, red, and green? To honor the Italian flag! Nowadays, though, you’ll find Rainbow Cookies in a number of different colors, including blue and white Rainbow Cookies for Hanukkah!
But you won’t just find Italian Rainbow Cookies at Italian bakeries — they’re hugely popular in American Jewish communities too! When Jewish people from Eastern Europe came to New York City, they often settled in parts of the Northeast with a large Italian population. And that meant bakeries with Rainbow Cookies.
Since then, you’ll find Rainbow Cookies in Jewish bakeries and delis! For another holiday Italian cookie that originates in the southern regions of Italy, try my Italian Pignoli Cookies made with pine nuts!
The cookie itself is made of three layers of almond-flavored sponge cake. In between the layers, there is a smear of either raspberry or apricot jam. And the cookie is topped with a chocolate coating.
Are Rainbow Cookies cake or cookie? That’s up for debate, but I think we can all agree they’re delicious!
- Measuring cups and spoons
- 3 9×13-inch (23×33-cm) quarter sheet pans
- Parchment paper
- Stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachment or handheld electric mixer
- Mixing bowls
- Plastic wrap
- Double boiler
- Eggs. Both egg whites and egg yolks are used in this recipe. The egg whites help ensure the batter of the cake is fluffy and sponge-like, while the yolks help give it a delicious flavor.
- Butter. Quality matters here! Use high-fat butter for the best results.
- Granulated sugar. White sugar is used to sweeten your cookies.
- Almond flour. Almond flour helps give almond flavoring to the cookies, as well as provide structure.
- Whole milk. I always use full-fat whole milk in my recipes for the best flavor.
- Almond extract. Italian Rainbow Cookies taste like almonds — up that almond flavor with homemade almond extract!
- Gel food coloring. Red and green gel food coloring is used to color the layers of Rainbow Cookies. I like to use gel food coloring because the colors really pop, and you don’t water down your batter.
- Raspberry jam. I love the taste of raspberry jam in Rainbow Cookies, but you could use apricot as well.
- Semisweet chocolate. Rainbow Cookies have a layer of chocolate on the top and bottom. I like to use semisweet chocolate to round out the sweetness of the almonds.
- Vegetable oil. Oil is added to your chocolate to help it keep together while it melts. Your chocolate will melt more smoothly and makes for easier spreading.
Italian Rainbow Cookies can seem a bit daunting because there are a few layers to this recipe, but they are worth the extra effort!
- Whip 4 egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks are reached.
- In a separate bowl, whip the butter and sugar until it becomes pale and fluffy. Then, beat in the almond flour and powdered sugar, add in and beat the egg yolks, milk, remaining egg whites, and almond extract.
- Fold in the flour and then the whipped egg whites from step 1.
- Divide the batter into three bowls. In one bowl, stir in the red food coloring. In a second bowl, stir in the green food color. Do not color the third bowl.
- Spread the batter into your sheet pans and bake.
- Allow to cool completely. Then, spread the jam over the green layer, top with the white layer, and spread the remaining jam over the white layer. Top with the pink layer.
- Cover the assembled cake with plastic wrap and place a baking sheet on top. Stack on some weight — hm, maybe my new cookbook — and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Melt chocolate and oil in a double boiler. Then, spread the chocolate over the top of the cake. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
- Flip the cake over and spread the remaining chocolate on the other side.
- Trim the edges to make the cake even, then cut the cookies into 1×2 (2 1/2 x 5 cm) rectangles.
Yes! Rainbow Cookies freeze very well. Simply cover them in an airtight container and place them in your freezer for up to 1 month. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving.
You can store leftover Rainbow Cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature. However, if you’d like them to last longer or have a hot kitchen, I recommend keeping them in your refrigerator. Rainbow Cookies stored in a refrigerator should last up to 1 week.
Are Rainbow Cookies Italian or Jewish?
Technically speaking, Rainbow Cookies are an Italian-American invention. Over time, Jewish refugees in Italian communities grew to love the cookie and have adapted it to fit their own dietary needs, such as switching butter for margarine to make Kosher cookies.
Why are Italian Rainbow Cookies pink and green?
Italian Rainbow Cookies were initially colored red, white, and green to represent the Italian flag. Over time, those colors have changed for different celebrations. For example, blue and white Rainbow Cookies are made to celebrate Hanukkah. You can make whatever colored Rainbow Cookie you’d like by switching the gel food coloring in this recipe.
Why do you whip egg whites for Rainbow Cookies?
It seems a bit silly to whip your eggs to make your cake batter lighter when you end up compressing the layers, but there’s a reason! You weigh down your cake layers for them to really stick together and hold their form, but using whipped egg whites still helps keep your cookies moist and tender!
- Italian Rainbow Cookies are often made with almond paste. To make this recipe a bit easier, I used almond flour and all the other elements that make almond paste into the ingredients.
- There are many steps to these cookies, but each one is quick and simple, and they bake up fast!
- If you like precisely even layers, use a kitchen scale to weigh the batter, divide the weight by three and weigh out the exact amounts into each bowl.
- You can use strained apricot jam instead of raspberry jam for these cookies. You can also switch up the colors to fit whatever theme you’d like!
- Biscochitos (Traditional New Mexican Cookies)
- Ginger Crinkle Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- GIANT Single-Serving Christmas Cookies
- Best Ever Sugar Cookie Recipe
And don’t miss more everyday baking recipes in my NEW Bigger Bolder Baking Every Day cookbook!
Italian Rainbow Cookies
- 4 large egg whites plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (12 oz/341 g) butter, softened
- 1 cup (8 oz/225 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4½ oz/128 g) almond flour
- 1 cup (4 oz/115 g) powdered sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 2 cups (10 oz/284 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon red gel food coloring
- ¼ teaspoon green gel food coloring
- ½ cup (5 oz/142 g) seedless raspberry jam, warmed
- 1½ cups (9 oz/255 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Butter and line three 9x13-inch (23x33-cm) quarter-sheet pans with parchment. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or with a handheld electric mixer and a medium bowl, whip the 4 egg whites on high speed to stiff peaks, for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
- If using a stand mixer, switch to a paddle attachment (or continue to use the handheld electric mixer) and beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Lower the speed to medium-low and beat in the almond flour and powdered sugar, followed by the egg yolks, milk, remaining egg white, and almond extract.
- Fold in the flour until evenly combined, then gently fold in the reserved whipped egg whites until blended.
- Divide the batter evenly among three bowls. In the first bowl, stir in the red food coloring. Stir the green food coloring into the second bowl and leave the last one uncolored.
- Spread the batters into the prepared sheet pans and bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through, until slightly firm to the touch but still pale. Let cool completely.
- Leave the green layer on the sheet pan and spread half of the jam evenly over the surface. Place the white layer on top and spread with the remaining jam. Top with the pink layer.
- Cover with plastic wrap, then place a baking sheet on top of the stack and add some weights. (You can use cans, a book, or anything heavy.) Refrigerate like this for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Gently melt the chocolate and oil in a double boiler, stirring frequently, until smooth.
- Spread half of the melted chocolate over the surface of the cake and refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
- Flip the cake over and spread the remaining chocolate on the other side. Refrigerate until set.
- Trim the edges of the cake so that it is nice and even, then cut into small rectangles that are about 1x2 inches (2½ x 5 cm).
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.